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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recent Work

The Community Development graduate program at the University of California, Davis, is a two-year multi-disciplinary applied social science program that leads to a Master of Science degree. The course of study provides a strong theoretical background in Community Development derived from a multi-disciplinary approach that includes Sociology, Anthropology, Political Economy, Geography, Environmental Science, Landscape Architecture, and other social sciences, combining both their theoretical as well as applied aspects.

The program helps students link conceptual knowledge with cutting-edge practical experience so they can influence the social, economic, cultural, and political forces that affect the well-being of people living in community settings whether small towns or large cities, whether in the United States or elsewhere in the world. The combination of theoretical knowledge and applied practical skills are specifically geared towards community development interventions that most effectively can help under-served populations. The current research and teaching areas in which the Community Development Graduate Group has particular strengths are:

  • Community economic development
  • Community organizing and organizations in under-served communities
  • Local impacts of globalization and trans-nationalism
  • Urban political development and change
  • Rural development
  • Community design and planning
  • Public health and welfare of Communities
  • Environmental conservation and planning
  • Community based agriculture and gardens, sustainable agriculture
  • Gender and development
Cover page of The Built Environment and Migration:  A Case Study of Mexico

The Built Environment and Migration: A Case Study of Mexico


Through the prism of the built environment, my aim in this research is to broaden the understanding of remittance expenditures –be it collective or familial. My concern here is to analyze the transformation of the physical environment brought on by transnational practices, specifically in a migrants’ community of origin. The study investigates the following question: What is the material impact of migration in a migrants’ community of origin? Subquestions include: How is migration, namely, the uses of collective and individual remittances, changing the village’s townscape? Are architectural aesthetics and the use of materials being transformed? Is the built environment reordering and/or reinforcing social relations?

Cover page of Community Participation in Climate Protection Actions A Case Study of Climate Change and Community Sustainability Planning in the City of Davis, California

Community Participation in Climate Protection Actions A Case Study of Climate Change and Community Sustainability Planning in the City of Davis, California


When facing the challenge of finding ways to reduce GHG emission to mitigate climate change, besides the actions by government at all levels, planners also need to consider how local communities, which are important actors in the implementation of climate protection plans, react and participate in the process. Through a case study of climate change and community sustainability initiatives in the City of Davis, California, this thesis explores the community participation process and evaluates its effectiveness. I conducted this research by observing the Davis Climate Action Team (CAT) meetings and related public forums, interviewing related participants, participating in the Low Carbon Diet Pilot Program (LCDPP) and its meetings, and surveying the participants of LCDPP. From the analysis of two community programs, I have found that the City of Davis’ planned community participation plays an important role in helping the City staff develop the local action plan and motivate participants to change their energy consumption behaviors. Through organization of the CAT and its operation, the community started a process of community engagement. These processes not only increased public awareness of climate action issues but also provided a platform for people to learn from each other and build consensus on future climate actions. The LCDPP further motivated people to change their energy consumption behaviors to reduce their carbon footprints by efficient tools and group support. The results of the two programs show that mixed planning methods are useful in facing the challenge of climate change. The planner used not only traditional comprehensive planning to develop its cost-effectiveness analysis but also advocacy and communicative planning to further iii promote the importance of climate protection and understand what the community wants and therefore enhance the feasibility of future implementations. The results of LCDPP survey also show that changing people’s behaviors is not a one-off event but a process. It requires not only giving tools to people but providing the enabling environment and incentives. However, some challenges still exist. Inconstant involvement of some CAT members, limited communication among the CAT, the city departments, and the general public, the uncertain final decision of the plan, and insufficient human resources in developing and implementing the necessary work to keep adequate communication and meet the specific time frame in the CAT process all hinder the effectiveness of participation. For the LCDPP, many self-selected participants have already engaged in low carbon activities before. The fact that the housing energy-use focus in the workbook ignored other strategies and renters’ situations also decreased people’s willingness to participate. Moreover, the relatively small GHG reduction seems not to meet the City goal of GHG reduction. The lack of a follow up check mechanism also makes the real GHG savings uncertain. In order to achieve broader and more substantial community participation, I propose an ideal community participation process in climate planning and provide specific recommendations for cities to achieve the process. Cities could (a) assign specific GHG reduction goals to varied programs to achieve the overall reduction requirement; (b) develop multiple outreach and participation methods to reach different social groups in their communities; (c) use alternative methods to keep the participation process transparent and open to the public; (d) develop various methods to ensure as iv much as possible that all participants have accurate information and equal access to make decisions and that suggestions from every participant will be equally considered; (e) add sufficient resources for community participation to improve communication and accelerate the process; (f) provide specific incentives and information to attract more participants; (g) work with existing social organizations to approach people more naturally and to keep the network more cohesive; and (h) set up a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to monitor and verify the effectiveness. I also suggest that more research is needed in order to understand ways that community participation can be more effectively implemented and its effectiveness within varied social contexts. Comparison studies are also recommended to understand the overall effectiveness of community participation in climate protection planning.

Cover page of Not Yet Glowing: Sacramento Delta Anglers and the Distant Hum of Risk

Not Yet Glowing: Sacramento Delta Anglers and the Distant Hum of Risk


The history of gold mining and industrial development around the waterways of

Northern California have made the prominence of mercury contamination an increasing

problem in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (the Delta). Scientists strive to understand

the relationship between mercury and aquatic environments, between mercury and fish,

and between mercury and human health. Meanwhile, fishermen frequent the Delta for

both sport and subsistence fishing and are often greeted with advisory signs urging them

to limit their locally-caught fish consumption. Advisory signs, however, leave out the

more complex historical and political processes that surround mercury’s presence in the

Delta waters, leaving fishermen with little information outside of the vague threat present

on advisory signs. Advisory signs and similar education efforts make assumptions that

the best way to mitigate the problem of mercury contamination is through public

education, and that fishermen will share an expert-driven understanding of the risks

associated with mercury contamination. This thesis addresses the many contexts in

which knowledge about mercury is generated, and the many ways its risks are

interpreted, framing the case of mercury contamination in four contexts: mercury in the

environment, mercury in the body, mercury in the academy, and mercury in the

community. Understanding mercury in the environment means placing it in a larger

environmental context and understanding both its historic and present day significance.

To look at the body means looking at both the toxicology of mercury and how scientists

have assessed the risk of its consumption by people. Looking at mercury in the body is in

part a reflection on scientific understandings of methylmercury (MeHg), and in part a

look at how scientists and researchers impose perceptions of the problem on to affected

communities. Academics frequently examine the case of mercury contamination. The

methods they have used and recommendations they have made provide a springboard for

my own fieldwork and analysis. Finally, I look to communities of fishermen to see how

they understand the problem, how they understand their environments, and how they can

be involved as the process to curb the problem of mercury contamination lumbers


Cover page of Digital Storytelling: A Comparative Case Study in Three Northern California Communities

Digital Storytelling: A Comparative Case Study in Three Northern California Communities


The purpose of this research was to explore how participants in digital storytelling projects used and understood digital stories as part of community-based projects. More specifically, > probed the extent to which respondents identified project outcomes related to individual, organizational, and community empowerment. Respondents were asked a series of questions about their expectations for the production of the digital stories and the extent to which these expectations were met. Particular attention was paid to the role of the respondent in story development, production, and distribution.




Religious law prohibiting the use of interest presents a particular challenge for Muslim business owners all across the United States. Recently, Islamic financing in America has gained much attention as it offers alternatives to the growing Muslim market in America. Little research exists, however, that assess the challenges (and their implications) that Muslim business owners face in accessing financial resources. This thesis addresses the question of how business owners have accessed capital in the absence of religiously appropriate financial products. The study investigates the role of religious commitment in shaping the decisions of a subset of Muslim business owners and offers a means to understand what factors best indicate one’s predisposition to use Islamic Financing Products.

To explore these questions, 19 small business owners within the Sacramento area, (identified via purposive, snowball sampling) were surveyed and interviewed. Overall, the sample demonstrated a high level of religious commitment and surprisingly the level of religious commitment did not necessarily correspond with past borrowing practices nor did it equate to one’s openness toward Islamic financing products.

Even though a large portion of my sample was found to have utilized non-interest bearing financing, a market of Islamic Financing Products was identified. Those who had used conventional products in the past or had experienced problems in obtaining financing seemed more inclined to such products. Additionally, a distinguishing characteristic of businesses willing to consider Islamic financing products were those that noted a religious influence on their product line, possibly uncovering a more religiously motivated decision than financing itself.

Cover page of Conserving Farmland… But For Whom? Using agricultural conservation easements to improve land ownership by next generation’s farmers

Conserving Farmland… But For Whom? Using agricultural conservation easements to improve land ownership by next generation’s farmers


It is unclear who the farmers of the future will be, and how they will afford the

land they work. Due to unprecedented residential development pressure, land prices in

many of the state’s most productive agricultural areas have climbed well out of the reach

of new farmers. High land prices, coupled with an increasingly marginal, globalized

agricultural industry, have given rise to two interrelated problems: farmland conversion

to other uses, and the flight of young people from rural farming communities.

Agricultural conservation easements (ACEs) have emerged as a market-based tool

to slow farmland conversion by extinguishing development rights on threatened land.

Rather than being reduced to a market price consistent with it agricultural income

potential, easement-encumbered land sells to non-farmers at well beyond its farming

value. What can the farmland conservation community do about this?

This study frames the ACE—a relatively new farmland conservation tool—in the

context of land reform; examines the extent to which the ACE and its actors address land

tenure currently; and formulates recommendations for improving ACE application.

A review of the literature provides background on land reform in the West and

why we should concern ourselves with land access for beginning farmers. It then

describes how agricultural conservation easements emerged, how they do and do not

address land access, and how they might be used to this greater effect. The results of

interviews with Land Trusts and others ACE practitioners reveal what these groups

anticipate for farm ownership of easement-encumbered parcels, and whether they take an

active role in these outcomes. Several models are then presented whereby land trusts and


public policy are improving land access for farmers. Three of these are illustrated using

detailed case studies.

Finally, recommendations are made that land trusts partner as frequently as

possible with younger-generation farmers to purchase land; include farming and farm

succession in their selection criteria; improve easement record-keeping practices;

consider innovative easement language and provisions; provide assistance to incoming

farmers; work to improve public support for local farmers; and better integrate with landuse

planning and other publicly-administered efforts to conserve farmland and farming.

Cover page of Can Federal Funding Create Bicycle Friendly Cities? A Comparative Study of Bicycle Planning in Sacramento and Amsterdam

Can Federal Funding Create Bicycle Friendly Cities? A Comparative Study of Bicycle Planning in Sacramento and Amsterdam


Bicycling in the United States has traditionally been seen as a means for recreation whereas in countries like the Netherlands bicycling is viewed and utilized as an integral part of the transportation system. With increasing health and environmental concerns in the United States it is important to consider transportation alternatives. The passage of ISTEA in 1991 has allowed federal funds to be used for bicycle projects. While availability of these funds can be seen as a step in the right direction, the number of bicycle trips has not increased in response to increased investment. Looking to the Netherlands’ example it appears that a multi-faceted approach will be necessary to achieve high levels of bicycling. Without addressing other factors such as land use, culture, safety, and vehicle use, as the Dutch have done, federal investment will likely not have as powerful an effect.

Cover page of Assessing the Local Marketing Potential for Mandarin Growers and Hoshigaki Producers in Placer County

Assessing the Local Marketing Potential for Mandarin Growers and Hoshigaki Producers in Placer County


The purpose of this project is to identify the ways to promote and preserve two local food products, the mandarin and hand-dried persimmon, in Placer County, California. The first chapter details a general history of agriculture in the county. The next chapter is a detailed description of mandarin supply and demand, an assessment of current marketing channels for the mandarin within Placer County, followed by the overall barriers and opportunities for promoting the product and for expanding the market in mandarin growers in the county. The last chapter is a similar examination of another agricultural product in the county known as hoshigaki (Japanese hand-dried persimmon). This paper concludes with some broader themes reflected by the effort of Placer County’s food growers and food producers to support small-scale, localized food systems and some of the unique lessons this community has experienced.

Cover page of IT Services in the Global Economy: The Case of Mexico

IT Services in the Global Economy: The Case of Mexico


In 2003, Business Week posed the alarming question of whether the jobs of white-collar workers in developed countries were on the verge of being offshored to developing countries. In this article Mexico was not even mentioned, but by 2006 the assessment had changed, as Business Week published an article on the offshoring of engineering jobs that focused entirely upon Mexico. What a difference three years makes. My thesis explores the offshoring to Mexico of knowledge-process based work, or what is currently described as “administrative and technical services.” Mexico is an interesting case study because it has a unique location, as it is the closest low labor cost neighbor to the U.S. Further, it has a history as a destination for offshored activities from the U.S., predominantly in manufacturing.